Have you ever had or heard of a canele? My first introduction to this amazing little treat came about in a rather unlikely way. I wish I could say that I first encountered this delectable thing in a Parisian cafe, sipping on a perfect cafe au lait, looking chic in sunglasses and expensive ballet flats.
I have the whole fabricated story fully formed in my mind, me impossibly svelte, double cheek kisses all around, a beautiful bouquet of white peonies peeking from my market bag and nothing on my agenda except an afternoon devouring a few caneles, chatting with friends and shopping for delicious foodstuffs. Such a beautiful dream. A dream so far removed from reality it's likely always to remain a dream.
Now the real story: Browsing the frozen food section at Trader Joe's, sweaty yoga pants, limp hair, running shoes, plantar fasciitis, screaming kiddos. I spy out of my beady eye something new in the frozen dessert case. A lovely brown box with gorgeous caramelized caneles on the front. My heart does a pitter patter. What is this lovely thing and how is it I've never tried it before??
In the cart they go, I head home, heat them up and destroy a week's worth of working out in a matter of 2 days. Eggy, custardy, crispy, caramelized, the juxtaposition of flavors and textures completely rock my boat.
A bit time consuming, and notoriously fiddly, there has been volumes written on how to make these properly. And there is the fact that you really need canele molds. Again, I try to avoid buying special pans for anything but I'ma tella you, these are definitely worth it. Individual copper molds are considered to be the most authentic way to make caneles, but at $25 a pop, not in the budget. Thankfully there are silicone molds available for pennies, comparatively and they can be easily purchased on line or at a gourmet cooking store. I used this mold and was very happy with the results.
If you search for canele recipes on the interwebs you will see so many different techniques, strategies and recipes, some involving coating the molds with beeswax even. I chose to go the simplest route possible and I have to say that despite all the angst and worry things turned out preeety darn good.
Three big tips when making these. 1. Let the batter rest 48 hours in the fridge prior to baking. 2. DO NOT USE A WHISK while making the batter, (air is not your friend here), 3. If the caneles, puff up too much during baking all is not lost, simply remove them from the oven and gently press the caneles back into the molds. It helps to step outside where it's cool to do this if you can. Caneles can act like mini soufflés sometimes, so cool air will help them shrink.
If I haven't scared you off yet, you will not regret giving these a go. There really is nothing, nothing like them and you will be immensely happy with yourself for your efforts. Some will tell you that a real canele needs to be dark, dark brown all over but I find that I prefer them to remain a bit lighter in texture and color. Enough dark caramelized crusty parts, contrasting softer custard sweetness. Until I can have my dream canele experience these will nicely do.
2 C. whole fat milk
2 T. unsalted butter, diced
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
3/4 C. sugar
3/4 C. all purpose flour
1 tsp. sea salt
3 large eggs, beaten
1/3 C. dark rum
Combine the milk and the butter in a medium saucepan. Scrape the beans from the vanilla bean and then add the bean to the pot. Bring the mixture to a simmer, remove it from the flame and cover. Let sit for 10 minutes.
In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour and salt. Set aside.
Strain the milk mixture in another medium sized bowl and remove the bean. Very slowly, add the eggs to the warm milk mixture. Do this slowly so as not to scramble the eggs. Stiring all the while. Remember no whisking! You can also temper the eggs by adding a small amount of the hot milk mixture to the beaten eggs in, stirring constantly. The idea is to bring the eggs up to the temperature of the milk, whilst incorporating them with the milk.
Once incorporated, gradually add the dry mixture then the rum. Strain the batter through a fine mesh sieve pressing on any lumps of flour or removing any bits of egg that may have cooked.
Cover the batter with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 24 hours. 48 is ideal.
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Melt an additional 3 T. butter and using a brush, generously butter the inside of the canele molds. Gently stir the batter to combine the settled ingredients. Fill each mold 2/3 of the way full of batter.
Bake for 20 minutes, checking on them after 10 to look for puffiness. If overflowing, remove from the oven, press down gently with a knife or spatula. It won't hurt to even take them outside to rapidly cool them and allow them to shrink back to size. (On one go around I had to do this 3 times, as I whisked the first batch of batter I made.) After the 20 minute cooking time has elapsed lower the oven to 400 degrees and allow them to bake an additional 40 minutes or until a deep golden brown. Repeat with the second batch.
Remove the caneles from the oven and allow them too cool on a wire rack. Brush them with more melted butter while still hot.
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit